Do you know any atheists who celebrate Easter? I do.

As you read this, A Year of Reading Biblically—the challenge I and a number of Canadian Mennonite readers have undertaken to read through the Bible from cover to cover in 2014—is over. But as I write this, it’s mid-December and I still have a few weeks left to finish.

As I reflect on the Bible, it occurs to me that its stories resonate with people regardless of whether they identify as Christian or not. At the end of 2013, I posed the question, “Why read the Bible?” on my Facebook page. One of my friends responded, “My English 100 prof at [the University of British Columbia] told our class that if we wanted to understand English literature, we had to read the Bible. That impressed me, since he didn’t seem to be a man of faith.”

Recently, a friend of mine named Lukas Thiessen posted a list on Facebook of 10 books that have influenced him over the years. Lukas used to self-identify as Christian. He grew up attending a Mennonite church, worked at a Mennonite camp and earned his first undergraduate degree at a Mennonite university. Today, he self-identifies as an atheist.

“There is no other book in my life over which I have done more studying, arguing, worrying, exalting [and] searching, than [the Bible],” Thiessen wrote on Facebook. “Even as an atheist, I continue to be a Bible-apologist because so many people don’t understand the first thing about Scripture. I know so much more about pop culture because I know this book so well.”

I wanted to understand the impact that the Bible has had, and continues to have, on his life, so I called him up. Thiessen, who holds a master of arts degree in curatorial practices from the University of Winnipeg (UofW), was in the midst of writing an article about his journey from Christianity to atheism for the Journal of Mennonite Studies, an academic journal published annually by the UofW’s chair in Mennonite studies.

During our conversation, I learned that he still celebrates Easter. Every year, he fasts on Holy Saturday. On Easter morning, he heads down to the Forks—the historic spot in Winnipeg where the Red and Assiniboine rivers meet—with a Bible, a loaf of bread, a bottle of wine and a musical instrument.

“I read one of the resurrection stories from one of the gospels and drink half a bottle of wine and eat half a loaf of bread, and it’s awesome. And I 100 percent do not believe in God or care whether Jesus lived,” Thiessen says, adding that he uses the instrument he brings to play the Beatles song, “Here Comes the Sun.”

This may strike some as irreverent, but in my experience he is anything but. He is not militant in his atheism and it is not the product of youthful adolescence or him not knowing who he is. His journey to atheism was a slow one, drawn out over a number of years of serious reading, thinking and reflecting. He is naturally curious and says that his stance on God is open enough that he could be wrong. “I’m open to being wrong, because I’ve been wrong before,” he says. “But I don’t think I am.”

So why the annual Easter sunrise service? Why the connection with the story of Jesus Christ’s death and resurrection?

“The idea of being God, or the son of God, and allowing humanity—which you created—to kill you, is incredibly powerful,” Thiessen explains.

In his view, the story of Christ’s death and resurrection has influenced the way we have constructed our society, as well as the ways we conceive of our own worth and the worth of our fellow humans. For him, one of the keys to the story of Jesus Christ is the idea that we should not try to control one another.

“I think that’s an amazing message,” he says. Whether it actually happened or not, “the story matters because it does influence the way I live [and] treat other people.”

For Thiessen, the story is enough. For me, as a Christian, belief in the life, death and resurrection of Jesus Christ, and having a relationship with God through Jesus Christ, are what make the story impor-tant. I want to believe that the stories in the Bible are somehow more important than any other story.

How about you? Which biblical stories intrigue you the most? Did you participate in A Year of Reading Biblically? How did it go? There is one article left in this series and I’m interested in hearing people’s experiences. You can e-mail me at youngvoices@canadianmennonite.org.

—Posted Jan. 2, 2015

In the YORB series see also:

Part 1- A Year of Reading Biblically starts now 

Part 2- Time for what’s important

Part 3- It’s God’s story 

Part 4- Important reminders 

Part 5- Getting back on track 

Part 6- Report shines light on Canadians’ Bible-reading habits 

Part 7- ‘The more I read, the more I get out of it’

Part 8- ‘Sweet’ memories